Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Another 54mm Redemption Story

 (This is the first installment of a saga prompted by a recent purchase)

 Buyer's remorse set in almost as soon as I opened the carton.

The two limbers with four horse teams caught my eye immediately.  It was a very tempting ebay offering, as I'm working to recreate in 54mm, Battery B, 4th US artillery.  Along with the limbers there were about 75 figures; Swoppets, Crescent, Deetail; pretty much all of the plastics made by Britains during the 1960s.  Included were infantrymen mounted artillerymen, and about twelve cavalrymen, on horseback, both blue and gray.

The dealer was very upfront  about the condition of the soldiers, noted that many of them were "wounded".  I pored over the auction photos and made a detailed list of how many of each there were in the "damaged" or "undamaged" categories, certain that my steady hands and superglue could make quick work of the walking wounded, plus those limbers kept calling out to me.  I decided on a price above which I wouldn't go, somewhat more than I should've, and waited for the auction to wind down.

"congratulations you won..."  Came the cheery robot-generated tidings, I paid and I waited for the mailman.

As I opened the carton I was reminded of the rail yard scene in "Gone With the Wind" as Scarlett winds her way through a ghastly pan shot of hundreds and hundreds of maimed and dying Confederate soldiers.

I was in way over my head.  They looked as though some petulant and spoiled little English boy of the 1960s (Swinging Carnaby Street days) stamped upon his tiny legions in  fit of pique because he encountered daddy "hugging" someone who wasn't mummy in the back of the Bentley.  The enormity of his tantrum was made manifest in the gruesome contents of the carton.

My first attempt at "fixing" a broken soldier was revelatory - they were so broken up because the plastic (after years of being, I suspect, in a very hot attic) had the tensile strength of a black Crayola crayon - the little man nearly crumbled in my hand.


How I proceeded is the grist for future posts; in this one, however, I'll focus on one unfortunate infantry officer who came home from battle not quite "all there".

This is the story of his long road back.

The officer in question is at the lower right.  Note he was missing both legs (though they are in the pile as were dozens of other separated limbs) and his sword had gone the way of all things.

I located his missing legs and tacked them into place with Super glue.  Following that I welded the pieces together with a soldering iron.

So far, so good.

Next up was the missing sword.  I wanted the new sword to "flex" or would just end up getting busted off again.  I cut a blade-shape out of a piece of an aluminum soft drink can.  With a very fine razor-saw I grooved the existing hilt and snugged the super glued blade into position.

The barrel to his trusty sidearm got lost somewhere in the cosmic shuffle so I heated a small section of paperclip (sharpened to a point at the heated end) and drove it right in to the cylinder.

As you watch me repaint the figure note that his missing scabbard is no longer missing in action.  Using rudimentary blacksmithing technique, I heated a larger paperclip with a MAPP gas torch to cherry red and hammered it to the desired flatness and curvature of a convincing scabbard. Heating the hilt end (not nearly as hot this time) I pressed the scabbard into the plastic, bonding it to the figure.  His red sash and binocular case identify him readily as an officer even i the smoke of battle.

The bases of all of the figures were very brittle so I cut a clear plastic base and epoxied the original base to the sturdier one and painted the result green.

Now it was time to send our soldier back into battle and see if he still had the "right stuff"

Was there any doubt?

Buyer's remorse gone, I intend to soldier on!


p.s. much more to come.



tradgardmastare said...

A splendid effort indeed and a Yikes-worthy start! I look forward to seeing how the rest turn out...

tradgardmastare said...

A splendid effort indeed and a Yikes-worthy start! I look forward to seeing how the rest turn out...

Sam Wise said...

they look good! some work to do, but what you have done on the first one is really good!
(I have a little range of US infantry men - don't remember the manufacturer- and if you are interested I can send you a picture and I can give you the figures!
just to pay the postage cost: e-mail me if you want, that's what I will do for the photos)

Martin Jones said...

Very interesting tips for restoration although my way is slightly different I tend to use a very fine drill into arms legs and head insert fine but strong wire (or fine plastic wire you get on tagged store purchases) and use both epoxy 151 strong glue to both sides wait until it gets tacky then join all and the wire makes for a stronger bond. Also I use either milliput,greenstuff or perfect plastic putty for any bits that need replicating or cracks that need filling.

I use the small plastic ties you can buy at the hardware store for scabbards. I cut to size of sword,drill a hole in the intended scabbards and the body of the figure and insert a pin through both with glue.
I use old plastic credit cards or other cards for missing sword blades cut/shape to size with a shaped pointy bit to insert into the hole I drill in the sword hilt. You can see how fine my drill is!

Replacing broken rifle barrels/pistols can be fiddly and I use a similar method with paper clip wire or a pin and build up with green stuff if necessary. After a good paint job the repairs are not noticeable. Thanks for your tips it's given me a few ideas as figures get harder to find in a complete state!
Martin, Plymouth UK.